Thomasville Times Enterprise

March 1, 2014

‘Love thy neighbor’

Rev. Arthur L. Jones III

— “Love thy neighbor as thyself.”

You can find these very words in the Gospel of Mark (Mark 12:31); within the New Testament of the Holy Bible. Jesus Christ — the Son of Man, the Lamb of God, our Lord and Savior — said this: “There is no other commandment greater than this.”

That’s how incredibly important He felt loving our neighbors is.

How are we doing in terms of obeying that commandment in our great nation? As it turns out, not very well. Whenever you get hungry, you eat, right? And whenever you eat, your family eats. You are so blessed; but what about our brothers and sisters who are currently unemployed? What about our citizens who have been stricken from the rolls of those Americans receiving emergency unemployment insurance benefits? There are 1.8 million of them; people who desperately need that money to provide food and shelter and utilities for themselves and their families while they continue to search for gainful employment. On planet earth, it takes money to maintain internet access so you can email resumes to potential employers. It takes money to put your suit or dress in the cleaners so that you have a professional appearance at an interview. It takes money to put fuel in your car so that you can drive to the corporate office in order to fill out that job application. And none of that matters if you cannot put food on your table. One political party is of the belief that if you cannot work, you should not eat. This political party mysteriously forgets the fact that every single American who earns a paycheck pays in advance into the fund from which unemployment benefits are paid out. This party finds it all-too-easy to merely write off unemployed Americans as takers or deadbeats. Watching our fellow Americans starve while turning your head the other way and pretending you haven’t noticed isn’t loving your neighbors. It’s cruel.

How are we doing in terms of obeying that commandment in the great state of Georgia? We’re doing about as badly as you can imagine, actually. Instead of leading by example, too many of the Peach State’s elected officials up in Atlanta seem proud to bring up the rear. It’s the virtual equivalent of choosing to be the class clown when you could have been the valedictorian instead. Eight hundred fifty thousand Georgians could be, would be and should be eligible for access to health care coverage if — if — Gov. Nathan Deal would simply decide to expand Medicaid in his state. Doing so wouldn’t cost Georgia’s taxpayers billions of dollars; it would save those taxpayers billions of dollars. Deal can use any excuse or no excuse to justify why he feels the way he feels. While he denies hundreds of thousands of people here in Georgia insurance coverage, there is no question that he is covered. Meanwhile, his refusal to even consider Medicaid expansion in Georgia has resulted in the closure of several hospitals throughout our state. Watching our fellow Georgians remain vulnerable to complications, death, and financial ruin from illness while appeasing your political base isn’t loving your neighbors. It’s draconian.

Finally, how are we doing in terms of obeying that commandment in our beloved community? What would be the grade here in Thomasville and Thomas County? If I were still an educator, I’d give the City of Roses a C+. We have good people who live here. I personally know of quite a few folks who give very generously of their time, talent and treasure in terms of helping God’s people locally. I’ve heard of their efforts, seen their outreach with my own two eyes and even rolled up my own sleeves to help them help others. That’s one huge reason I was so honored to be a participant in last week’s joint meeting between the local political parties. We have human beings who are hungry, homeless, underemployed, unemployed, disenfranchised, sick and discouraged here in our city. In our county. Local churches, civic organizations, non-profit groups, foundations, and charities are doing their parts. All members of both local political parties should do the same. Government can do more —much more. Those aforementioned entities can help those in need, yes; but only government can write policies to directly support Americans in need wherever they may be. Watching our fellow Thomasvillians do without when we could do something about that isn’t loving your neighbors. It’s rubbernecking.

I’ll close with Jesus’ words from Mark 12:30-31: “And thou shalt love the Lord thy God with all thy heart, and with all thy soul, and with all thy mind, and with all thy strength: this is the first commandment. And the second is like, namely this, Thou shalt love thy neighbour as thyself.”

Since God said it, that settles it.